Senior Transport department executives yesterday gave evidence which conflicted with claims by Premier Rann about the state of readiness of South Australian projects being considered for funding under the $20 billion Building Australia Fund.
Liberal MLC Rob Lucas said that on 29 October 2008, Premier Rann issued a media release listing South Australia’s five priority projects which included the Seaford rail extension, acceleration of upgrades and electrification of the Gawler rail line and the upgrade of the Torrens and Goodwood rail junctions.
On the next day, Advertiser journalist Greg Kelton reported the Government view that the Seaford line extension would be the first project to go ahead if federal funding was approved.
Since then, Mr Rann has made a series of claims that South Australia’s submissions for funding were better than anyone else’s, because they could commence immediately as all the preparatory work had been done:
“What I said to the Prime Minister…I can give you projects that you can partner with us that can start in May or June that don’t have to go through environment impact statements, don’t have to go through design and acquisition of property”
“What I said to the Prime Minister…I can offer a slate of projects that can get going straight away rather than having to go through planning approval, environment assessment designs and so on. Because we have already done the work”
“However, yesterday DTEI executives including CEO Jim Hallion gave evidence to the Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee which contradicted the claims made by Mr Rann,” Mr Lucas said.
“In particular, the DTEI executives made it clear that a number of these projects would not be able to commence in May/June because significant design work and environmental assessment had not even begun and in some cases could take up to 12 months to complete.
“For example, in relation to the Government’s first priority project, which is the Seaford rail extension, Mr Rod Hook said, “but the design work concept, design through to design development through to detailed design, all this has to occur.”
“Mr Hook also noted an environmental assessment of the project would also have to be undertaken.”
In relation to the electrification project, Mr Hook said:
Mr R Hook: “We don’t expect to have electrification in either Noarlunga or Gawler until about 2012, 2013 or 2014…”
Hon R Lucas: “So you have a fair bit of detailed design work to be done for what, to many of us, might sound like simple electrification? There is a fair bit of detailed design work that has to be done beforehand in relation to these issues?
Mr R Hook: “Yes.”
“Mr Hook also noted there were important environmental issues still to be dealt with regarding re-sleepering and electrification,” he said.
“Finally, in relation to the Torrens junction project, Mr Hook confirmed there was up to 12 months of detailed work to be done as well as an environmental assessment:
Hon R Lucas: “So, the Torrens and Goodwood junctions would then have to go through the environmental assessment process that you are talking about and the detailed design work etc?
Mr R Hook: ”Yes.”
“This evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee is an obvious embarrassment to Mr Rann, who has obviously been putting his own political ‘spin’ on this issue and making claims which are not supported by his own expert advisers.”